Afghan official: 870 inmates fled

U.S. and NATO troops aided Afghan forces with reconnaissance in a hunt Saturday for 870 inmates who escaped from a prison after a Taliban assault that even NATO conceded was a success for the militants.

A roadside bomb, meanwhile, killed four U.S. Marines sent to southwestern Afghanistan to help train the country's police. The deadliest attack on American forces this year came a day after Defense Secretary Robert Gates highlighted the fact that more U.S. and allied troops were killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq last month.

Afghanistan's deputy interior minister, Munid Mangal, said about 1,000 prisoners were housed in Kandahar's Sarposa Prison when dozens of militants on motorbikes attacked the facility late Friday. Seven police officers and several prisoners died in the assault, he said.

One suicide bomber detonated a tanker truck full of explosives at the prison gate while a second bomber blasted another escape route through a back wall. Rockets fired from inside the prison's courtyard collapsed an upper floor. The police chief of Kandahar province, Sayed Agha Saqib, said 390 Taliban prisoners were among the 870 inmates who escaped.

NATO was providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to help track fleeing militants.

The Marines attacked in the roadside bombing in nearby Farah province were from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. They arrived in Afghanistan earlier this year and were helping train police.